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2Q20 gives cloud vendors hope the worst COVID-19 impacts are over

2Q20 was better than expected and sparks more long-term optimism

Results in 2Q20 reflect a full quarter’s worth of COVID-19 impact, and the sigh of relief from executives at leading cloud providers was almost audible. That is not to say negative impacts were not felt, though. Transactional activity was once a nice growth driver for cloud providers, laying additional revenue on top of the long-term contracts that typically provide the majority of cloud revenue. Those revenue streams have been hardest hit in the cloud space, as businesses across the board initially looked to trim expenses amid pandemic-driven disruption and financial challenges. Some long-term projects have been delayed, particularly among smaller customers that lack the same degree of financial stability their larger counterparts possess to weather challenging times. And lastly, there remains a considerable amount of uncertainty as to how the economy and customer demand will change in 2H20.

Despite these challenges, numerous positives occurred for cloud providers during 2Q20. Those positive elements not only yielded a better-than-feared performance in the quarter but also gave vendors a reason to believe there could be even more improvement in the back half of the year. One factor spurring this optimism is that, for the most part, COVID-19 has accelerated existing trends within the competitive landscape, rather than dramatically altered them. Customers are not scrapping planned cloud investments, although they may be delaying or paring them back temporarily. The largest vendors, including Amazon Web Services (AWS) (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), saw deceleration in their revenue growth rates, but that has been occurring for years. SAP (NYSE: SAP) needed to rely on remote services to take new deployments live, but that too has been a trend for quite some time. Lastly, Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) saw a decline in cloud revenue growth and continues to trail competitors in pace of cloud growth, but that is the latest chapter in an ongoing story.

The silver lining that was consistently reported across 2Q20 earnings calls is that customer demand for cloud solutions long-term is expected to strengthen. Many vendors are looking to endear themselves to customers now by helping customers reduce expenses and by aiding in COVID-19 response. On the pricing front, vendors strategies range from pricing flexibility to discounts to assisting customers in finding efficiencies that reduce costs. To help customers respond to COVID-19, cloud vendors have developed targeted solutions and IP that support shifts in business operations, many of which are being offered free of charge or at a deep discount in the near term. These efforts may dampen some of the short-term growth for cloud solutions. However, cloud vendors have growing reason to believe they will reap the benefits of accelerated cloud investment once the economy and their customers’ businesses improve.

Cloud Revenue Growth Trending 2Q19-3Q20E

COVID-19 has not impacted all industries equally. Though cloud proved resilient during 1Q20, there was still trepidation about how customers in harder-hit industries like travel, entertainment and transportation would react through the remainder of 2020. Not only were results in 2Q20 stable for leading cloud vendors, there is optimism that demand for cloud technologies will remain robust through year’s end regardless of how other industries and the broader economy perform. 

East meets West: A comparative tale of two e-commerce giants placing big bets on the cloud

Alibaba Cloud, AWS focus on build-outs of global footprints via infrastructure investments in 5G and expansion of data center and edge locations

While the growth of the two globally dispersed e-commerce giants Alibaba and Amazon is largely fueled by retail, both businesses have showed marked dedication to the growth of their respective cloud empires, focusing on infrastructure to fuel global expansion and investment in augmenting their respective portfolios. The investment in cloud is evident as the backbone driving each business as they compete on the global stage to become leaders in digital transformation (DT).

Alibaba Group’s aforementioned profit margins, fueled by its B2B operating model, have enabled a hefty investment of $28 billion dedicated to the cloud business. As the world was gripped by the initial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic back in April, the parent company announced the allocation of the sum, which stands as a massive proclamation of the company’s dedication to cloud and related technologies as the core drivers toward the enablement of DT. The sweeping investment, coupled with new leadership and an expanding partnership strategy, solidifies Alibaba’s intent to position its cloud business as a viable contender against AWS, especially in APAC. Alibaba is clearly placing a large majority of its bets on cloud and the future of DT, as the investment equates to 40% of its total 2019 revenue and is 5.7x the revenue of Alibaba Cloud.

The investment will have a profound impact on Alibaba Cloud’s ability to execute on strategies around DT, infrastructure build-out and R&D, and came at a time when the world could not have been in more need of capabilities such as increased bandwidth and enterprise and SME support. The focus in the medium term is a multifaceted push to gain scale globally, attract new customers and expand wallet share with existing customers, and much of this growth will be propelled by the expansion of Alibaba Cloud’s infrastructure backbone with the build-out of data centers and investment in 5G across EMEA and APAC.

Since solidifying its dominance in China and garnering competitive positioning on the global stage, Alibaba has been frequently referred to as the “Amazon of China.” Both companies have anchored their businesses as e-commerce platforms and have demonstrated parallel growth trajectories, becoming mainstays in the lives and businesses of customers globally. The uniqueness of their respective journeys, which have been significantly shaped by their foundations as e-commerce giants, does not overshadow the companies’ similar strategies. Over time, Alibaba and Amazon have evolved rapidly into diversified companies with a distinct focus on technology and digital transformation. While the companies are in different phases of their growth, in terms of size and global footprint, and have different operating models, the investments in and focus on their respective cloud businesses to drive growth are evident when comparing their evolutions and forward-looking growth strategies.  

Trailing vendors collaborate to better compete against market leaders, which are expanding globally

Public Cloud Market Summary

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft remain leaders in public cloud, but their cloud strategies are extending well beyond the segment as they also enable hybrid environments with internal hybrid cloud offerings such as Azure and Azure Stack that entice enterprises with latency-sensitive or regulated workloads to leverage cloud environments. Microsoft is improving its competitive position against AWS through partnerships, notably its direct data center connections with Oracle. Although only a limited number of regions support these direct connections currently, the Microsoft-Oracle partnership is expanding with new direct connections in Canada. However, AWS holds significant IaaS market share and remains the leading IaaS provider as of 4Q19.

While both vendors still offer IaaS, IBM and Google have taken unique approaches to winning enterprise customers through vendor-agnostic and Kubernetes-based PaaS. IBM holds a greater share of this market as it attained a strong IBM Cloud Private customer base prior to the launch of Anthos, and IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat grew IBM’s position in the space. TBR expects that both IBM and Google will be successful with this vendor-agnostic strategy as many enterprises look to leverage Kubernetes-based PaaS for their hybrid environments, evidenced by IBM’s customer base of more than 2,000 clients using Red Hat and IBM container solutions — such as IBM Cloud Paks — as of 4Q19.

Public cloud remains the largest and fastest growing segment of the cloud market. Changes in customer acceptance, data integrations and innovation have combined to sustain the rapid growth of public cloud adoption. TBR’s Public Cloud Benchmark details how hybrid deployments, new use cases for enterprise apps, and trends in emerging technology will make public cloud even more relevant in the future.

IaaS and PaaS leaders maintain their current positions in the public cloud market but face mounting competition

Coopetition is growing among vendors to outcompete leaders in the public cloud market, and customers have responded positively by integrating multivendor environments. TBR expects this coopetition will enable multiline vendors to attain notable growth, but likely not until roughly 3Q20, after the COVID-19 pandemic abates, as enterprises manage remote workforces rather than undergo vast integrations.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, Google and Alibaba will continue to lead the global public cloud market, with Google and Alibaba driving the most significant total public cloud revenue growth among large vendors due to their smaller revenue bases. While these rivals battle globally, TBR expects competition will be greatest in Europe.

Public cloud remains the largest and fastest growing segment of the cloud market. Changes in customer acceptance, data integrations and innovation have combined to sustain the rapid growth of public cloud adoption. TBR’s Public Cloud Benchmark details how hybrid deployments, new use cases for enterprise apps, and trends in emerging technology will make public cloud even more relevant in the future.

IoT is a piece of a larger IT strategy and should not be treated as a unicorn

Let us begin with the bad news: Many IT and operational technology (OT) vendors were disappointed — and some incurred damage or had to scramble to realign — as the IoT opportunity failed to live up to inflated expectations prevalent between 2015 and 2017. Many anticipated far more rapid growth than was reasonable, given that IoT is neither a technology nor a market, but a technique or a class of solutions. Many also thought that version 1.0 of horizontal IoT platforms was a fast and easy sell. An early victim was General Electric (NYSE: GE), but TBR expects other large names to narrow their IoT businesses and investments, if they have not already, and several smaller names to disappear or get eaten by bigger fish as they find themselves spinning their wheels in the mud with nondifferentiated portfolios.

The good news: Starting in late 2018 and continuing into 2019, TBR has observed the IoT opportunity recovering as lessons from the difficult times have led to increased sanity and smarter messaging around IoT. We believe that the pace of IoT project implementation is increasing, but that the mix has shifted to smaller projects. Over time, however, the number of active projects will grow and the amount of data they produce will also grow, leading to an accelerating growth curve.

TBR believes a few significant realizations and realignments are driving acceleration:

  • IoT really is not a market (although that is the easiest way to describe it) nor a technology. It is a technique for applying technology. It is not a very novel technique, but rather an evolution of IT solutioning that includes sensors. More vendors and customers are coming to understand what IoT is and are avoiding the perception of IoT as something that is new, novel and complex, making it easier for vendors to leverage IoT to help customers overcome business challenges. With IoT being treated as one tool in the larger IT solutioning toolbox and the focus turning to solving the end problem, rather than defining the technology needed to get there, vendor-customer relationships are back to business as usual. Vendors do not have to get bogged down in education cycles as much because customers understand IT solutioning, and vendors can focus on delivering solution components instead of getting embroiled in discussions on the perception of IoT as a discrete and transformational technology and the complexity, hesitation and perceived risk that stem from that.
  • IoT is not easy. This is true for two reasons: because customer organizations are complex and have numerous stakeholders with differing priorities, visions and systems, and because IoT is rarely implemented in and of itself. IoT is more often tied with existing or new systems, such as product lifecycle management, supply chain management, enterprise resource planning software, or a multitude of specialized software from ISVs. Adoption is largely from the bottom up in organizations, but customer IoT champions and vendors are realizing that adoption must be supported from the top down to extract maximum value from IoT. Customers are increasingly adding CIO and chief digital officer (CDO) roles to guide holistic, consistent transformation, and vendors are investing in sales strategies targeted at the C-Suite, such as innovation centers and improved messaging. To answer the second challenge, vendors are learning that they cannot address everything alone and must partner to tackle the variety of interconnected systems and build best-in-class solutions.
  • Being the best at a few select components of IoT is better than being OK at everything. Thousands of vendors are attacking the IoT opportunity, culminates in a busy, confusing and hypercompetitive market for customers. Winning vendors are finding their swim lanes and exploiting their niches, such as self-service Amazon Web Services (Nasdaq: AMZN), application-focused Oracle (NYSE: ORCL), embedded-driver Dell Technologies (NYSE: DELL) and things-focused Bosch. These vendors are increasingly known for being the strongest in their chosen niches, and their narrower focuses not only make them prime targets for systems integrators to pull into solutions but also make partnerships easier, with joint go-to-market efforts proving to be a winning strategy for vendors to employ beyond their legacy customer bases. 
  • Packaged solutions are emerging. With customization comes cost and complexity, anathemas to the customer base, especially large customers. As vendors begin packaging components together for shared applications or to address common challenges, costs are beginning to develop boundaries, helping customers understand exactly how IoT can be used and what to expect in terms of ROI. TBR expects packaged solutions to drive steady market growth moving forward. Each solution has its own growth curve, with some being quite rapid—but taken together, these solutions are delivering accelerating but moderate growth.

The 3Q19 Commercial IoT Market Landscape looks at technologies and trends of the commercial IoT market. Additionally, TBR catalogs and analyzes more than 520 customer deals by vertical, uncovering use trends, identifying opportunities, examining maturity, and discussing drivers and inhibitors.

Informatica touts AI benefits with a caveat: Data cleanliness and management are critical

To be widely effective, AI needs clean data and cloud scale

Informatica World 2019’s focus was on customers of all backgrounds and sizes leveraging AI to accelerate digital transformation. While AI is not a new or novel discipline, cloud computing has supported its growing accessibility by enabling scalable, cost-effective data processing. In that spirit, Informatica has forged partnerships with the three most prominent public cloud brands, Amazon Web Services (AWS; Nasdaq: AMZN), Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Google Cloud (Nasdaq: GOOGL), and put these three Platinum partners on stage throughout the event’s keynotes and breakout sessions.

Google Cloud

Google Cloud was represented on the keynote stage by new CEO Thomas Kurian, who harped on both data processing at scale and the idea of ensuring you’re informing AI and analytics with clean and comprehensive data sets. Informatica and Google jointly announced that as of the conference, Informatica’s Intelligent Cloud Services (IICS) and Master Data Management (MDM) solution were available on Google Cloud, better enabling customers to move their data warehouses to Google Cloud Platform, leverage Informatica’s products in the environment, and run analytics through BigQuery and Google’s AI capabilities.

AWS

Ariel Kelman, VP of Worldwide Marketing at AWS, joined Informatica CEO Anil Chakravarthy on stage to describe how AWS is innovating and enabling customers with AI, but more importantly to explain the relationship between Informatica and AWS in supporting their joint customers. Kelman admitted that “a lot of [AWS’] services need data and a lot of that data is still on premises.” Though AWS is bringing its services into customers’ environments through AWS Outposts, customers also want help bringing their data to the cloud. In addition to supporting integration between Informatica products such as Power Center and IICS with Amazon Redshift, the partners announced a joint offering with Cognizant (Nasdaq: CTSH) that enables customers to complete a free, self-service data migration assessment. The assessment service leverages Informatica Enterprise Data Catalog on AWS and Cognizant’s data-to-cloud migration assessment and strategy services to help customers begin planning and mapping their data migrations to cloud. The service is intended to accelerate customers’ data migrations to AWS infrastructure while ensuring enlistment of Informatica data management products and Cognizant consulting and systems integration services in the process.

Microsoft

While Microsoft and Informatica did not make a formal announcement on stage, Microsoft had a large presence in the final keynote of Informatica World and in breakout sessions, highlighting how Microsoft approaches AI innovation and use cases across various industries and customer roles. At the outset of the event, Informatica announced its support of the Microsoft Common Data Model (CDM), data frameworks meant to ultimately reduce data silos across workloads and applications through data model standardization on Microsoft Azure. Informatica’s support of the Microsoft CDM, which is a key aspect of the widely discussed Open Data Initiative between Microsoft, Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE) and SAP (NYSE: SAP), enables customers to utilize Informatica’s portfolio of products and solutions to manage data across applications and enable analytics and business intelligence efforts across the data landscape. TBR believes there’s a clear opportunity for Informatica to similarly extend its Customer 360 and Customer 360 Intelligence solutions into the Open Data Initiative alliance, particularly to bring greater light to the capabilities brought with Informatica’s recent acquisition of AllSight, a storyline that was overshadowed at the event despite its deliberate inclusion in the narrative.

Public cloud segment leaders projected to secure another 10% of market share by 2023

TBR estimates total public cloud market size was $165 billion in 2018. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) led the overall public cloud market, while Amazon Web Services (AWS) (Nasdaq: AMZN) maintained a strong lead on the IaaS segment and Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) delivered enough growth to sustain a top-three position in both SaaS and PaaS market share. Microsoft and AWS are expected to jointly compose nearly 40% of the public cloud market over the next five years, while Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) — fourth and fifth, respectively, in total public cloud revenue in 2018 — will fall out of the top five by 2023 due to adoption headwinds and an inability to convert established enterprise relationships into revenue growth while Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) take share.

Trend to watch

An increase in multicloud environments will position some vendors to take segment leaders’ market share.

“In the SaaS market, Microsoft Adobe and SAP have joined forces under the Open Data Initiative to challenge Salesforce’s single vendor suite,” TBR Senior Analyst Meaghan McGrath said. “Meanwhile, Alibaba and Google will embrace their role, providing additional PaaS and IaaS services to enterprises that made early investments in AWS or Microsoft.”

Public cloud remains the largest, fastest-growing segment of the cloud market. TBR’s Public Cloud Market Forecast analyzes the SaaS, PaaS and IaaS performances of leading vendors and details how hybrid deployments, new use cases for enterprise apps, and trends in emerging technology will make public cloud even more relevant in the future.

Cloud marketplaces are small in revenue impact but mighty in market impact

Cloud marketplaces are more of a slow burn compared to pronounced market impacts in books, retail and music

To predict the impact of cloud marketplaces, it is worth evaluating how similar changes in go-to-market strategies have impacted other markets. Sears (Nasdaq: SHLDQ), Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) are three very different companies that illustrate just how profound an impact sales motions can have. Sears rode the impact of its mail-order catalog for nearly 100 years in a wave of success that only recently petered out. Amazon and Apple have much broader business strategies, but both owe a considerable amount of their success — which has them jockeying for the title of the world’s largest company in terms of market capitalization — to their selling methods. Both Amazon and Apple entered well-established markets and disrupted them, not by competing on the merits of their offerings but by challenging the existing sales motion with a marketplace approach. Amazon’s online approach to the book market is a very pronounced example of marketplace disruption, as Figure 1 illustrates. Amazon began selling books online in mid-1995, overtook traditional market leader Barnes & Noble less than eight years later, and subsequently expanded and dominated the market. Today, Amazon controls over 50% of the total book market in the U.S., including both physical and digital titles.

Market overview: Online marketplaces, where customers can browse, search and then buy or subscribe to software titles, have been around for quite some time. Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) rolled out the first cloud app store in 2005, and a wide variety of new options have been introduced since. Despite their longevity, the impact of these marketplaces is still uncertain. Salesforce AppExchange is a standout success, but the impact is more nuanced for most other marketplaces and the industry overall. Marketplaces have not yet become a prominent distribution model for software and cloud services, but they play a niche role in overall go-to-market strategies that include traditional direct sales, partner-driven sales and customer self-service sales. Although marketplaces currently hold a small portion of overall cloud and software revenue share, trends could bolster their role in the market moving forward.

Key findings from TBR’s 2H18 Hyperconverged Platforms Customer Research

  • TBR forecasts the HCI market will reach $15 billion by 2023, representing a significant growth opportunity for data center vendors.
  • Survey incidence data indicate that the majority of potential customers have not yet begun their hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) journey.
  • Emerging solutions, such as Lenovo’s TruScale Infrastructure Services and AWS Outposts have the potential to shake up the HCI market.

Opportunity for successful HCI vendors is great, as the market will rapidly expand through 2023

The HCI market evolves to meet customers’ changing demands. As customers embrace digital transformation, the opportunity in HCI increases, and vendors invest and adapt to become agents of change for customers. TBR estimates the HCI market will increase from $4.6 billion in 2018 to $15 billion by 2023 as customers leverage HCI for a wide array of needs, both traditional and emerging.

A majority of potential customers have not yet purchased HCI, creating opportunities for all HCI vendors to gain customers. Incidence data from TBR’s research show that only 27% of companies surveyed purchased HCI. This demonstrates the massive opportunity that remains for vendors to gain net-new customers in the space. Converged infrastructure (CI) leaders Dell EMC and Cisco have a distinct advantage over other HCI peers, as their CI legacies have afforded them incumbent status with existing CI customers. Despite the incumbent advantage, there is opportunity for any vendor to capitalize on emerging buyer preferences. For example, software is an increasingly central piece of the HCI story, and with 79% of respondents indicating that they would consider consumption-based HCI purchases, strategic marketing and investments can enable any HCI vendor to rise through the ranks.

While Lenovo is not a leading vendor at this time, 30% of respondents indicated they considered Lenovo for their HCI purchase. Lenovo’s restructured portfolio, its recent unveiling of TruScale Infrastructure Services, and the rapid positive changes in its overall data center business are likely to bolster gains for the vendor in HCI as well. Although Dell EMC’s and Cisco’s leadership in the HCI space has been established, the opportunity in HCI remains vast, even for fast followers in the space. Digital transformation only stands to reinforce this trend as HCI becomes more widely adopted.

Customers leverage HCI for private and hybrid cloud installments as security remains a top concern with public cloud adoption

It is clear the private and hybrid cloud value proposition is a benefit HCI buyers are looking to achieve, with 80% of respondents indicating they leverage HCI for private or hybrid cloud installments. A majority of customers (60%) leverage their HCI for database management, and many of these customers indicated their database management use was for mission-critical purposes. This underscores the need to protect critical and sensitive data. TBR’s research showed that buyers are making additional investments in security in conjunction with HCI, particularly network security.

Graph depicting 2H18 security software purchased with hyperconverged

Going forward, the emergence of AWS Outposts in the market will challenge current HCI deployment trends as Amazon Web Services (AWS) messages its Outposts offering as being able to seamlessly integrate with AWS public cloud, addressing a key driver behind HCI adoption for private cloud installments. AWS Outposts are expected to hit the market in 2H19, so it will take some time before the impact of Outposts is known. However, that AWS is making its Outposts offering available as a managed service will improve ease of use, and will likely increase demand, especially among existing AWS customers as the underlying hardware of Outposts will resemble that of AWS’ public cloud environment.

AWS shakes up the private cloud infrastructure market with Outposts

Outposts enable AWS to meet clients’ demand for private cloud

Amazon Web Services (AWS) unveiled at re:Invent in Las Vegas its new Outposts on-premises cloud infrastructure, which will enable AWS to become the sole cloud infrastructure provider for its clients. The underlying Outposts infrastructure closely resembles AWS’ public cloud data center infrastructure. Since the infrastructure will be similar, it is conceivable AWS will be able to tie customers’ public and private clouds together seamlessly, fulfilling customers’ desire to deal with one less vendor for their IT needs. AWS will deliver, install and maintain Outposts for customers.

The sheer volume of AWS public cloud customers creates a large base to sell Outposts to and takes aim directly at private cloud data center providers. Outposts will also directly compete with Microsoft Azure, and will generate accretive hardware revenue for AWS.

An advantage AWS has over infrastructure vendors is economies of scale, which will enable AWS to sell massive infrastructure volumes for low margins — much like an original design manufacturer — and become a price leader against OEMs such as Dell EMC and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). AWS also plans to arm its channel partners with the necessary capabilities to sell these infrastructure solutions, further enabling large sales volume. Moreover, AWS is better equipped than other infrastructure vendors such as Dell EMC and HPE to attach the necessary services to provide connectivity between public and private cloud environments due to its expertise in the public cloud space — and will gain the higher-margin sales to boot. IBM has strong services capabilities but lacks the commoditized infrastructure and customer volume to match AWS’ strategy. TBR notes that pricing details of Outposts have not yet been determined.

VMware gets a piece of the AWS Outpost pie with the VMware Cloud variant

VMware and AWS collaborated to provide VMware Cloud on a variant of AWS Outposts, which will be offered by VMware as a managed service. As this creates a conflict of interest for Dell Technologies, TBR believes Dell Technologies has its sights set on the higher-margin sales generated from VMware Cloud and will forego the loss of lower-margin hardware sales to gain it.

Although AWS’ announcement may seem like bad news for the private cloud infrastructure OEMs, the good news for them is that AWS’ Outposts will not hit the market until 2H19, giving the infrastructure players some time to develop solutions that can compete with AWS as it moves into the data center hardware market.